As the sport of pickleball sweeps the nation, grabbing up youth and high-level tennis competition, Marcin Rozpedski, at age 41, still stands out as the best singles player in the game.

Earlier this year, Rozpedski took gold at the first-ever U.S. Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida. Last month, however, he retained the sport’s biggest trophy, taking the singles gold medal at the 2016 National Championships in Casa Grande, Arizona.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, Rozpedski moved to the United States when he was 14 with the dream of being the number-one tennis player in the world. By the time he was 18, he won the Polish National Championship and became number one in Poland, eventually competing in the Davis Cup for Poland as well as in the Wimbledon, French and U.S. Open junior tournaments. Rozpedski’s highest ATP singles ranking was 273rd in the world and 250th in doubles.

Rozpedski began playing pickleball two-and-a-half years ago when a few of his tennis friends—who are also tennis pros—invited him to play.

“At first I thought it was so easy, but then I realized there’s a lot more than just blasting hard balls at each other,” he recalled.

Last year, Rozpedski entered the National Championships singles competition and ran through the field, defeating Daniel Moore in the finals. Earlier this year, he traveled to Naples and took the inaugural U.S. Open tournament by storm, winning the singles.

“I have played at the U.S. Open in New York as a professional tennis player, so the name U.S. Open Pickleball reminded me of the Grand Slam tennis tournament. The Pickleball U.S. Open championship was a dream come true. After the last point I broke down in tears—that’s how important it was for me to win the title.”

In November, Rozpedski returned to action at the National Championships, facing the deepest singles competition draw that pickleball has ever seen. With young players such as Kyle Yates, Daniel Moore and Tyson McGuffin, the big question was whether Rozpedski could hold on. In the end, he overcame a close match with McGuffin to take the title.

Rozpedski explained, “Being the National Champion is the highest pickleball honor—especially when the competition is getting better and younger. The game has become much more physical due to the number of tennis players participating. I hope that the public will continue to come out to support the singles as much as the doubles events.”

Pickleball is a family affair for the Rozpedskis, who live in Bermuda Dunes, California. “My wife, Carly, started playing about three months ago and is having a blast,” he says. His 16-year-old son, Christian, won the silver medal in singles and bronze in doubles with his partner, Chad Hamner, at his second pickleball tournament ever played. His younger sons, Charley and Chance, also enjoy the game.

Marcin Rozpedski is the sports director at The Lakes Country Club in Palm Desert, California. He has also been Head Pro at the Ritz Carlton Hotel and the Indian Ridge Country Club. On the coaching side, he has been the Head Tennis Coach for the College of the Desert and has traveled with Ana Ivanovic as she won tennis’ French Open Championship as well as serving as the hitting partner for Victoria Azarenka as she became number one in the world in tennis.

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